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Outback Weekend Felt Like No Other Reteat

“It was intense. It was powerful. It was intimate. It was…holy.: ~ Michael O’Sullivan

By Michael O’Sullivan

I grew up doing the retreat thing. So, when my wife, Davanne (pronounced day-van), told me that we were cashing in one of our wedding presents—a Men of St. Joseph Outback retreat—I was pretty indifferent. When is it? What are the details? Why are we doing this again? Who gives retreats out as wedding presents anyway?! For an indifferent guy, I sure had plenty of questions about what we were signing away our precious weekend for.

I was apprehensive. Open to the experience, but apprehensive nonetheless. Barely a Southerner for a month (we had recently moved from Milwaukee, WI), not even married for six, I was nervous enough being the new guy in town, let alone opening up in the way most retreats I’d been on encouraged. It was settled though. My wife signed us up and that was that.

The day of the retreat arrived and at 4 p.m. sharp, so did we. We pulled into Camp Grace and were greeted with enthusiasm, instructions, and bandanas…wait, what? The weekend had begun and there was no turning back.

Over the course of the weekend, Davanne and I had the pleasure of participating in a group of other newly married couples. Our experiences were similar, our laughter frequent, and our support of each other throughout the course of the weekend, genuine. We were all in it together, and yet apart, paired off with the ones we came with. This is what I think of when I look back on my first Outback experience.

You see, despite being a well-seasoned retreat participant and occasional retreat leader, never before had I experienced a retreat like this. It was intense. It was powerful. It was intimate. It was…holy.

When I think back to what that weekend was, I see my wife. There were other things and people present too, but it was the person I came with who I recall most vividly. No other retreat have I been on that gave me the opportunity to so intimately reflect on a particular relationship in my life. No other event outside of our wedding had, to that point in time, given us an opportunity to reflect so deeply on who we were to each other, who we were with God at the center of our lives.

If I were forced to pick out only one moment from that retreat that will stick with me for the rest of my life, it would be when we looked into each other’s eyes, prayed for each other in turn, and had the chance to say (and I paraphrase here), “I love you.”

With each passing day, my Midwestern roots dig a little deeper into the comfort of Southern living. It’s hard to believe that a year has already gone by since my wife came to me with news of our weekend plans. As we look back on it together, that precious weekend really was precious. That wedding gift, truly a gift.

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